BRAMPTON, Ont. – The CBC web drama series The 410 depicts the struggles of a young South Asian woman who is trying to get her trucker-turned-drug-trafficker father out of jail.
series was inspired by true events in Canada’s trucking hub, where
actor-writer-director Supinder Wraich grew up in a trucking family.
goes to prison for something like this, or goes to the courts for something
like this, it’s not just a toll on that person. It’s a toll that extends to
their family,” Wraich said in an interview from Los Angeles, Calif., where she
is working on a new project.
“And, the products
that they’re bringing in destroy lives on a much more significant scale.”
Community leaders are well aware of the extent of the problem, and because of that, they were not surprised when news broke this month of yet another drug case involving South Asian truck drivers.
For years, they
have been trying to raise awareness about the perils of drug trafficking, but
they believe tougher penalties are needed to fight the menace.
In the latest case,
two team drivers, 26 and 31, were arrested at the border crossing point in
Windsor, Ont., with suspected cocaine worth $4.8 million.
So, why are young truckers
risking their lives to engage in drug trafficking?
“If I can be very blunt, it’s plain greed.”
– Parmanand Prashad of Prashad Law Office in Mississauga, Ont.
“If I can be very
blunt, it’s plain greed,” said Parmanand Prashad of Prashad Law Office in Mississauga,
handled dozens of drug cases involving truckers on both sides of the
“People want to
make fast money. A lot of times, they’re approached by other people who, you
know, are looking for someone with a clean driving record because they figure
these guys will get less inspection or scrutiny at the border,” Prashad said.
typically get $5,000 to $10,000 per trip, he said.
In most cases, the
suspects are paid to bring drugs either from the U.S., or take drugs back to
believes most are willing participants in the crime.
“It would be
highly unusual for a major trafficker to use an inexperienced truck driver.
Typically, they’re not going to put a shipment of that size in a truck with a
driver who has never done this stuff before.”
Lure of quick
South Asian community leaders say they are frustrated because they are dealing with a group of people who want to get rich quick, and brag about it to relatives back home.
“They have been here
for just one or two years, but they want to buy big homes and expensive cars – now,”
said Dharampal Sandhu, an owner-operator and founder of the Drug Awareness
Society of Toronto.
“I have been here for
30 years, and worked hard to buy a home. But these people, they don’t have that
kind of patience. They want it now.”
Deepak Punj of the South Asian Trucking Association of Canada agrees.
He said the main
reason why young people are lured into the drug trade is materialism.
“They think this is a race. If their cousin has a Rolls-Royce, they want to have a Bugatti… They want to take short cuts to make a quick buck.”
– Deepak Punj of the South Asian Trucking Association of Canada.
“They think this
is a race. If their cousin has a Rolls-Royce, they want to have a Bugatti… They
want to take short cuts to make a quick buck,” he said.
Punj is using his talk
show on the Punjabi-language Frontline Radio to educate the youth about drugs.
president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association (OATA), said it was
disheartening to hear of more arrests.
While OATA members
don’t even cross the border, Singh is worried about the overall negative image
the arrests would create.
“This is really
bad. They are doing it for easy money. That is the only reason I can think of,”
Singh said if
someone wants to choose trucking as his career, then that person should be
ready to work hard.
“You can’t get
community leaders agree that Canada needs to toughen its laws against drug
trafficking if the country really wants to make any headway in the fight
against drug abuse.
“I can understand getting bail for the first time, but not second and third for the same crime. Why?”
– Dharampal Sandhu, founder, Drug Awareness Society of Toronto.
“I can understand
getting bail for the first time, but not second and third for the same crime. Why?”
That is exactly
why Canadians arrested in the U.S. want their cases to be tried in Canada, said
Prashad, the lawyer.
“If you’re getting
10 years (in the U.S.), you’re spending pretty close to 10 years because you
don’t get paroled early for good behavior,” he said.
In Canada, Prashad
said, people are released after they spend about a third of their sentence.
don’t do it
leaders and Prashad say their message to the drivers is, stay away from drugs.
“Just don’t do it.
The reward is not worth the risk,” said Prashad.
“Even if you make
a couple of hundred thousand dollars, it becomes meaningless when you’re
sitting in a U.S. jail for several years,” he said.
“Your family life
gets destroyed in the process. Do not do it.”
Still Wraich, the
star of The 410, believes that the traffickers are victims of their
“I’m reticent to villainize anybody, or their actions, because as an artist, I’m always trying to understand their perspective.”
– Actor-writer-director Supinder Wraich.
“I’m reticent to
villainize anybody, or their actions, because as an artist, I’m always trying
to understand their perspective.”
In his 1987 movie Wall
Street, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko lectures a group of stock brokers
that greed is good, greed is right and greed works.
In Brampton, young
South Asian truckers are finding out that the opposite is true, but for many of
them, that realization has come too late.
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